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Bi-Weekly Report Card: Schwarber, Harper, and Rojas

While there is basically zero chance at the division, they look like a better team than the pennant-winning club from last year.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies sit 51-42, sit half a game back from both the Marlins and Diamondbacks for wild-card spots and a full game back from the Giants.

Despite having only three players with an OPS above 800, one of whom is a platoon center fielder and a terrible bench, they look as good as any team in the National League after the Braves.

Like always, I’ll be back in two weeks.

Kyle Schwarber

Even from someone like me, one of the biggest Kyle Schwarber supporters you’ll find, he’s not had a great year.

His OPS is below .760 and the defense is so bad that Bryce Harper is going to change positions in the middle of the season. He deserves more praise as their emotional leader and his knack for delivering in big moments but it shouldn’t completely overshadow his issues.

The driving force behind his offensive issues is that he’s slugging below .500 against four-seam fastballs and pulling the ball more, especially on the ground. Both are concerns but there is one sliver of hope left.

It’s no secret Schwarber has knee problems. The former catcher tore his ACL in 2016 and now at 30, is currently experiencing a massive decline in speed. His sprint speed is nearly two feet per second slower than last year and is now in the bottom six percent of baseball.

With a few days off because of the All-Star break, Schwarber came back with three home runs and a walk-off sacrifice fly to left field.

One of those home runs with a bomb to center and that sacrifice fly was to the opposite field.

What’s the point of all of this?

It’s just a guess at this point but it seems like he was able to use his lower half more to drive the baseball. By no means has he ever been an all-fields hitter but he doesn't have a double outside of the right-field line this season. That’s not like him.

When Bryce Harper becomes the first baseman full-time, Schwarber will thrive as the DH. He can simply use his legs and knees more for hitting rather than needing to play the field every day.

Combine this with the fact that he has the lowest BABIP of his entire career this season and you should expect a much better hitter going forward.

Maybe, just maybe, he will get all of the Schwarbabies to stop crying.

Bryce Harper Finally Homered

I don’t love making this about a wildly popular topic but it matters. The drought was clearly getting to him, even to the point where it was affecting his hustle at times.

However, it’s about what he did the next day that should inspire more confidence. For lack of a better term, he just looked more like Bryce Harper.

Instead of a hard ground ball to first, Jake Cronenworth had to make a leaping catch to rob Harper of a double. He later pulled a double to right field and smacked a 110.5 mph single right in front of Trent Grisham to tie the game.

All three of these swings featured launch angles above 10.

His power problem was a little overstated, he was always hitting the ball hard but smacking it into the ground. His launch angle is currently at 7.3, the lowest of his career, he is usually hovering between 13 and 16.

It’s obviously not the only thing and idiots like me can’t really tell you much else but it certainly played a role in his drought.

Now, he’s turning the pitches he gets into real damage and not just ground ball singles.

Johan Rojas

Johan Rojas got the chance to make his major league debut this weekend and it began with the highest of highs.

He played both games of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, then played Sunday when they gave Nick Castellanos a breather.

Outside of this play, he didn’t exactly do too much but that’s not the story here. While Cristian Pache is out and Harper makes the transition to first base, the Phillies are going to need an outfielder before the trade deadline.

I have zero sources on this but I have to assume there is a Jake Cave call-up eventually given that there just won’t be a need for Darick Hall anymore. While Cave is torching up AAA with a 1.118 OPS, it’s easy to forget what happened in April.

There are probably plenty of valid reasons why Cave struggled, filling in for Harper is no easy task and 70 plate appearances should not determine who you are.

70 plate appearances is all we have of him this year, 58 of them he was given the platoon advantage in. He hit just .231 with a .639 OPS against right-handed pitching.

The point with all of this Cave information is that unless Rojas gets completely exposed as an offensive player, he should get some chances against right-handed pitching.

With his defense in center and Brandon Marsh in left, there won’t be many balls going to the left-center field gap.

The Phillies start a three-game series against the Brewers tonight with Aaron Nola taking on Julio Teheran in game one. You can read here for a bigger preview but my one big prediction is Nola shoves tonight.

The Brewers have the sixth-worst wRC+ in baseball along with Rowdy Tellez and Brian Anderson on the injured list. If he takes care of Christian Yelich then seven innings shouldn’t be a problem.